Stick shawabty and model coffin

Middle Kingdom, Dynasty 12–13
1991–1640 B.C.

Findspot: Egypt, Sheikh Farag, SF 186


Length x height: 29.2 x 12 cm (11 1/2 x 4 3/4 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


The Ancient World


Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This set includes a wooden “stick” shawabty wrapped in linen with its own model coffin and lid, both also of wood. Characteristic of this type of shawabty, the figure is crudely carved and very schematic in details, fashioned of a single peg/dowel. The rectangular coffin has short legs and a curved lid with barrel-shaped ends. Both coffin and lid are painted white.

An ancient Egyptian shawabty is a funerary figurine that was intended to magically animate in the Afterlife in order to act as a proxy for the deceased when called upon to tend to field labor or other tasks. This expressed purpose was sometimes written on the shawabty itself in the form of a “Shawabty Spell,” of which versions of various length are known. Shorter shawabty inscriptions could also just identify the deceased by name and, when applicable, title(s). However, many shawabtys carry no text at all. The ideal number of such figurines to include in a tomb or burial seems to have varied during different time periods.


From Sheikh Farag SF 186. 1913: Excavated by the Harvard University–Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition. Assigned to the MFA by the Egyptian government in the division of finds. (Accession Date: December 4, 1913)

Credit Line

Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition